Levels of Text Comprehension in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): The Influence of Language Phenotype

Rebecca Lucas, Courtenay Norbury

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Many children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have reading comprehension difficulties, but the level of processing at which comprehension is most vulnerable and the influence of language phenotype on comprehension skill is currently unclear. We explored comprehension at sentence and passage levels across language phenotypes. Children with ASD and age-appropriate language skills (n = 25) demonstrated similar syntactic and semantic facilitation to typically developing peers. In contrast, few children with ASD and language impairments (n = 25) could read beyond the single word level. Those who could read sentences benefited from semantic coherence, but were less sensitive to syntactic coherence. At the passage level, the strongest predictor of comprehension was vocabulary knowledge. This emphasizes that the intimate relationship between language competence and both decoding skill and comprehension is evident at the sentence, as well as the passage level, for children with ASD.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2756-2768
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Issue number11
Early online date22 May 2014
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


  • autism spectrum disorder
  • autism spectrum disorder, language impairment
  • sentence processing
  • text comprehension

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